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Is Ninja Van the FedEx of Southeast Asia?

It gives a B2B twist to the sharing economy model by using other people’s vans

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BY Kirsten Han - 01 Mar 2016

ninja van

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

For a buyer, what’s easier than online shopping? Scan a website for what you want, add items to your cart, then hit “checkout.”

For the seller, however, that “checkout” button is the beginning of a complex puzzle that needs to be solved in record time. Enter Ninja Van, which ensures that those countless online orders are delivered on time and accurately to the customers of a vast array of e-commerce firms, undertaking tasks such as sorting and route planning that parcel delivery firms like FedEx, DHL or UPS don’t do.

Many online businesses do not possess the knowledge and expertise in handling logistics requirements – they are more familiar with their products and the marketing of those products,” says Dr. Chang Chen Sheng, an adjunct professor at Kaplan Higher Education teaching courses related to business administration and logistics. For such companies, outsourcing the business of sorting and delivery just makes sense.

Ninja Van is fairly new to the scene, founded in 2014, but has the ambitious dream of becoming the foremost logistics solutions provider in the Southeast Asia region. It’s making rapid progress too – the company raised US$2.5 million in a Series A funding round to expand its activities. A year ago, the company only had a handful of employees; today, it employs about 70 people across Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and is looking to expand into Vietnam and Thailand later this year. It has 2,000 active clients and delivers about 10,000 parcels a day.

But here’s what makes Ninja Van really different from FedEx and its ilk: Ninja Van isn’t just building out its infrastructure. Giving a b-to-b twist to the sharing-economy model pioneered by the likes of Uber and Airbnb, Ninja Van is making the most out of under-utilized resources that already exist. In short: It’s using other people’s vans.

Apart from its own fleet of about 100 drivers, Ninja Van draws on a fleet of about 400 reserve drivers to help with deliveries when things get busy. These reserve drivers come from existing delivery fleets, such as food and beverage delivery services.

“They mainly do deliveries during meal times, which means that they have a lull at other times,” says Aaron Kobes, marketing and PR manager at Ninja Van. Inside of leaving the drivers idling, these fleets can now be roped in to help with Ninja Van deliveries.

Similarly, anyone with a trusty vehicle can sign up to be a Ninja Van driver. If they pass Ninja Van’s interview process, they get added to the database.

“If you’re done with work and on the way home, you can just drop by the warehouse and say, ‘I want to deliver 10 parcels’,” said Kobes. Ninja Van’s technology sorts parcels geographically, making it easy to identify parcels that need to be delivered to the same area; a driver wouldn’t even need to leave his or her neighborhood.

To keep both sellers and customers’ minds at ease, Ninja Van also provides order tracking at multiple stages, from pick-ups at the warehouse to sorting, transit, and final delivery. This feature is what attracted major fashion ecommerce company ZALORA to Ninja Van.

“Providing consumers with an excellent journey is not an easy feat for e-commerce players, considering many complexities involved along the way,” said Dione Song, ZALORA Singapore’s Managing Director. Ninja Van’s ability to allow customers to track orders, and also be assured of 24-hour delivery, was seen as a major plus.

Ninja Van’s model contains a lesson every business should consider: sometimes there is no need to build everything from scratch – the resources could already be out there waiting. Just don’t call it a parcel-delivery company.

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